I would like to believe that Melville was years (maybe centuries) ahead of his time, but more than likely he was just plain nuts, apparently stalking Hawthorne and who knows what else. This shouldn't stop you from enjoying the fun though! In MD we basically have two ideas going on, with Ahab's whole monomaniac pursuit of the whale bookending hundreds of pages that essentially capture Ishmael's (sun)baked thoughts during his three years or so on board the Pequid. This middle section will either bore and repel the reader, or suck them in, resembling some post modern-ish films like Satyricon, or perhaps the writings of some lost beat author. This middle section is a detailed narrative of every thought that strikes Ishmael's mind as he is immersed in what must be a remarkably dull setting. So instead, his mind wanders, seeing analogies in every bit of rope and whale tissue to the relationship between man and God, man and nature, man in society, etc. The idea is so absurd and executed so bombastically that it works. Had the man he dedicated this book to (Nathaniel Hawthorne) wrote MD instead, it would have been awful, but Melville can write about Ahab's pipe with enthusiasm, and put that very same pipe into a mythic perspective! Of the outer story, what is there left to say? Only an American author could take the standard tragedy of man bested by the fates and turn it into man bested by the fates/decides to hunt down and kill God! An absolutely fantastic and unforgettable book, but I would have enjoyed more ramblings from Ishmael. I'm serious!!!